Town offers restaurants a lifeline, with outdoor dining
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Restaurants in Miami Lakes that are struggling with restrictions on the number of patrons to just 50 percent capacity will soon have a new way to serve diners.
The town council decided Tuesday to allow restaurants to serve additional diners by providing seats at tables that can be set up on sidewalks and in parking lots.
The new resolution was adopted to happen while the town’s state of emergency order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is in effect.
There are more than 60 dining spots, bakeries, ice cream shops and markets in town.
Restauranteurs must work with the town building department to make sure what they propose for outdoor service is allowed, Town Manager Edward Pidermann said Wednesday.
The council asked that permit fees be reduced but final details were not yet worked out.
Town Attorney Raul Gastesi said during the council meeting that the town’s resolution can’t force a restaurant’s landlord to comply.
He also said restaurant owners and property owners must agree on how much space can be used for outdoor table service.
With written approval from landlords, restaurants may expand outdoors. The total number of seats – both outdoor and the reduced number inside -- may not exceed the indoor capacity permitted prior to the virus outbreak.
After the state and Miami-Dade County allowed some non-essential businesses to reopen on May 18, restaurants were required to limit the number of people in their dining rooms; tables must be kept six feet apart.
Martin Cardenas owns Cancun Grill, a Mexican restaurant at 15406 NW 77th Court in the Royal Oaks Plaza.
He said he can normally accommodate 200 customers and employs 53 employees. But with his bar closed and reducing the number of diners to 60 under the coronavirus formula hurts his business.
“Right now, the situation is very bad,” Cardenas said. “We get some help from the government but it’s not enough. The requirements inside the restaurant, the capacity of 50 percent, is impossible to comply [with].
“It’s not going to work,” he told councilmembers. “If nothing changes, in two years maybe we close the doors.”
Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez and councilmembers Carlos Alvarez; Luis Collazao, Joshua Dieguez and Marilyn Ruano approved the resolution.
Mayor Manny Cid and Councilman Jeffrey Rodriguez recused themselves from the vote.
They cited a conflict of interest because they are partners in the Mayor’s Café, which operates in the same shopping center as Cancun Grill.
Nelson Rodriguez, who sponsored the resolution, said outdoor dining in parking lots was feasible and safe.
He mentioned Cancun Grill’s annual Cinco De Mayo celebration, which also happens in the parking lot.
Nelson Rodriguez said a barrier must be placed in the parking lots to separate the diners from spaces remaining for parking.
“We can do it in a way that’s easy as possible but as flexible as possible and as soon as possible,” Rodriguez said.
“Anything and everything to help our small businesses is welcomed,” Ruano said.
Senior Planner Susana Alonso said complying with social distancing, with tables being by six feet apart, means three tables would take up five parking spaces.
If the council wants outdoor dining to continue after the state and county allow restaurants to resume operating at full capacity indoors, it must pass an ordinance to allow that to happen, said Deputy Town Attorney Lorenzo Cobiella.